Dear President McCormick:
The cancellation of the study abroad program with Israel resembles a cultural boycott, similar to the academic boycott of Israel that you rightly opposed in July 2007.
You wrote in an op-ed column that, “any intrusion on the free flow of information and academic exchange to serve a political agenda is a violation of the principles we hold as institutions of higher learning.” I could not agree more.
The State Department issued one of their travel warnings about Israel this month that may have precipitated the decision to cancel the program. However, serious danger to Americans is forewarned in other countries where Rutgers maintains programs, such as Morocco and Ghana, and yet that those programs continue.
According to State.gov, “The potential for terrorist violence against American interests and citizens remains high in Morocco.”
Violence against women in Ghana is a massive problem according to human rights groups, and yet there is no prohibition for female students from Rutgers studying there.
Terror attacks by separatist and Islamic terror groups occur in major European cities where you maintain programs. The EU reports that 500 such attacks took place in 2006 alone. Still the programs continue.
In other words, there is neither consistency nor logic in the attempt to protect the welfare of Rutgers students.
Studying in Israel is no more dangerous that studying at Rutgers, Morocco, Ghana or in Europe. It’s probably safer.
The recent war in Gaza did not affect daily life for students at major Israeli universities, except for Ben Gurion University in Beersheba. Yet, Rutgers has canceled all programs to Israel out of â€œsecurity concerns.â€
It seems more likely that staff at Rutgers are angry with Israel for the war on Hamas, and want to pursue a boycott of Israel, under the guise of protecting their students.
Or perhaps the Rutgers staff was influenced by the perception of Israel as portrayed on the nightly news during the conflict with Hamas.
This would be ironic given that the Rutgers Study Abroad website tells students not judge the safety of a country by watching CNN, using the example of the perception of the U.S. abroad, â€œWe have been told by many people abroad that the U.S. seems like a very violent country. How our perceptions of other places are shaped by the media is worthy of reflection.â€
Please rescind the cancellation. Students must be allowed to study in Israel on the Study Abroad program and be informed of the risks as with any study abroad program.
Donâ€™t let Rutgers become hijacked by the anti-Israel craze sweeping academia that you so boldly opposed two years ago.
Rabbi Yonah Bookstein
Campus Rabbi, Long Beach Hillel
Associate Rabbi, UC Irvine Interfaith Center
Director, Jewlicious Festivals
Feel free to voice your own concerns in a civil manner to President McCormickTelephone: 732-932-7454 â€¢ Fax: 732-932-8060.